Once a healing ceremony, hoop dancing lives on as entertainment

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Hoop dancing is popular Native American tradition that was originally meant for healing ceremonies, but now they’re kept alive as entertainment.

The Duncan family has kept hoop dancing a family and cultural tradition for generations. They’re also known as the Yellow Bird Indian Dancers and they have competed in hoop dancing championships for over 20 years. They start performing as young as two years old.

“We teach them how to do little dances, then after that they learn their own designs,” Talon Duncan, 2015 World Champion Teen Hoop Dancer, says. “Once they get to a certain age they start picking up their own designs and learning their own routines. It’s good that they’re keeping their culture alive.”

Yellow Bird Productions is under the direction of Ken Duncan, member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. He talks about how he’s been making hoops for a long time because carrying on the tradition is important to him. The “big family affair” brings everyone together.

“The indigenous people lived by the circle,” Ken says, describing the symbol of the hoop. “The circle of life is the circle that symbolizes how all of life moves in a circle.”

Talon says he is able to tell stories with his hoops. He can make them into different designs like an eagle, butterfly or flower. There are many people who are unaware of Native American culture. He says he wants to do what he can to inform and show them this piece of his culture.

More information on the Duncan family can be found at yellowbirdproductions.com.

VANESSA RUIZ: THAT'S RIGHT, TED, THANK YOU SO MUCH. THE YELLOW BIRD ARE KNOWN AS THE INDIAN DANCERS. A DOZEN FAMILY MEMBERS PRESERVE THEIR WORK THROUGH DANCE. THEY HAVE COMPETED IN THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS OF HOOP DANCING FOR 20 YEARS NOW. THIS YEAR, THEIR DANCE HAS HAD A SPECIAL DUNCAN FAMILY TOUCH. LILLIAN DONAHUE FOLLOWED THE FAMILY FROM PRACTICE TO PERFORMANCE.

SOT: THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE LIVE BY THE CIRCLE. THE CIRCLE OF LIFE. THE CIRCLE THAT SYMBOLIZES HOW ALL OF LIFE DANCES IN A CIRCLE. I HAVE BEEN MAKING THESE HOOPS FOR A LONG TIME. I AM PART OF THE DUNCAN FAMILY. WE ALL HOOP DANCE. LAST COUNT WE HAD 11. I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY WE HAVE NOW. THERE IS KENNY JUNIOR THE OLDEST, THEN CHRISTY THEN TONY. KEVIN IS THE CLOTHING DESIGNER GUY. CALLEN IS THE BABY. R.J. HAS AN OLDER SISTER, THEN R.J. THEN TONY, HIS WIFE AND THE FOUR CHILDREN. IT'S A BIG FAMILY AFFAIR.

SOT: I'LL BE TELLING A STORY WITH MY HOOP, MAKING A DESIGN, AN EAGLE, BUTTERFLY OR FLOWER. THERE IS A LOT OF PEOPLE ON THIS EARTH. A LOT OF THEM MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT OUR CULTURE. I INFORM THEM AND SHARE WITH THEM ALL OF THE THINGS THAT WE DO.

SOT: I'M A COMEDY GUY. I LIKE TO DO FUNNY STUFF AND EVERYTHING. WE TEACH THEM HOW TO DO THE HOOP DANCE. AFTER THAT THEY LEARN THEIR OWN DESIGNS. AFTER THEY GET TO A CERTAIN AGE THEY PICK UP THEIR OWN DESIGNS AND MAKE THEIR OWN ROUTINES. IT'S GOOD THAT THEY ARE KEEPING THE CULTURE ALIVE.

SOT: SCARY TIME FOR ME AS A GRANDPA.

SOT: R.J. IN SECOND PLACE IN THE YOUTH DIVISION RIGHT NOW HAS ASKED ME TO SING THE FINAL QUALIFICATION SONG FOR THE PLACING OF THE DANCERS. THE SONG I SING I CREATED MYSELF FOR MY FAMILY. THIS IS OUR OWN FAMILY SONG IN APACHE. THE WORDS SAY HOW BEAUTIFUL THEY DANCE THROUGH THE HOOPS. SO LONG AFTER I'M A SMILE ON MY GRANDCHILDREN'S FACES, THEY'LL STILL BE SINGING MY SONG, AND IT'S NEVER GOING TO END JUST LIKE THE CIRCLE HAS NO BEGINNING OR ENDING TO THINGS THAT WE DO, WE'LL CONTINUE ON AND ON.

VANESSA RUIZ: SUCH AN AMAZING FAMILY AND INCREDIBLE TRADITION. ONE OF THE BROTHERS HELPS TO MAKE ALL OF THE COSTUMES BY HAND. R.J. YOU SAW IN THE STORY, HE TOOK SECOND PLACE IN THE CHILDREN'S CATEGORY.

TED SIMONS: GREAT STORY. THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

Ken Duncan: hoop dancer
Talon Duncan: 2015 World Hoop Dancing Champion

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